The Division Machine

Today I got an email from Chat10, Looks3 – my favourite podcast with Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales. They can’t hold their “Live In Brisbane” show because of COVID19 so they’re doing a “live on Facebook” broadcast.  I have no idea what that looks like but I guess I won’t find out because I am not a Facebook user.   I sent Annabel and Leigh an email saying that they have some “chatters” who can’t “chat” because of being averse to that “bumhead”, Mark Zuckerburg.  I thought bumhead would express my feelings without using completely inappropriate language.

I used to use Facebook.  I don’t remember how I got onto it or when but I think I was on it for at least 6 or 7 years.  Throughout that time P was averse to FB but never pressured me to get off it.  Then suddenly it fell on me, not only that I SHOULDN’T be on it, but that it was actually negatively impacting my mental health.  Finally, after years of internal debate about the people I would lose contact with by getting off it, I just did it. That was in 2014 – around September.  For a good few months I really missed it.  It’s an easy way of making public announcements.  It’s an easy way of being amused, of wasting time, of feeling like you’re part of the world.  And occasionally I still miss those easy things.  (By the way – I was right about losing contact with people.  Nearly all those “friends” who I thought I would miss are no longer a part of my life in even the tiniest way.  I sometimes wish I could contact them  but it’s only a mild curiosity or nostalgia.)

But what I also miss out on (quite a good kind of missing) is the negativity, the bad-mouthing, the polarising, the bullying.  A friend told me the other day about a discussion she became a part of about COVID19.  She was told that she “shouldn’t trust information out of China”.   OMG!  Red flag to angry bull, people!

  1. MOST of the information we have about this crazy pandemic comes from China.  Most of the papers, the data, the health advice – it’s out of China.  So if you disregard that, you haven’t got much to fight it with. It started there.  Kind of makes them the experts.  Did you know that they sent a MASSIVE aid package to Italy including hundreds of doctors, heaps of ventilators, millions of face-masks etc.  And all the other European nations refused to offer any aid at all.  China sounds like a pretty good world citizen to me.
  2. I really dislike people discrediting China like that.  China initially sought to “protect” its people from information about COVID19.  They sought to squash any uncontrolled sources.  They have been heavily cricitised for this.  But seriously, isn’t every single other government doing the same thing in a slightly less aggressive way?  Our own government is down-playing it as much as they dare because, even with downplaying it, we are seeing fights in the supermarkets over toilet paper.  Governments do not want panicking populations, folks.  Panicking people do weird things (like stocking up on toilet paper for a respiratory illness).  Panicking people are flighty, unpredictable, irrational.  So you tone it down.  You keep it quiet and controlled.  You manage information.  Some people call it censoring.  In this particular case, it’s the basically same thing.
  3. And as for uncontrolled sources – Facebook is the epitome of information taken and used and abused and misquoted and memed and passed on and recycled.  It is a recycling centre which gives stuff away for free with no regard for quality or integrity.  So if you want to distrust a source of information, dear friends, distrust Facebook first, and then examine China.

I think Facebook is far more dangerous than China.  It is dangerous because it is not governed sufficiently.  Policy has not kept up with IT growth.  Laws have not kept up. When Europe tried to interrogate Zuckerburg on Facebook’s role in BREXIT, he simply refused to co-operate and there didn’t seem to be anything anybody could do.

Countries have reasons to avoid war.  Facebook makes money out of giving people a “tribe” and polarizing that tribe against the next.  Facebook is a division machine with no economy or boundaries to protect.  It is a breeding-ground for ideas – both incredible and awful.   And between those sets of  competing ideas lie gulfs almost wider than this planet can tolerate.




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